I recently checked out Chapman, and I brought my usual laser focus. Sure, it’s a prestigious school. Yes, the campus is beautiful – a nice mix of old and new. And it’s set right in the middle of all the SoCal excitement. But here’s what really matters to me: How’s the food?
As a dormie, my priorities for food were simple: fast, fresh, fulfilling. And Randall Dining Commons has all that and more. We’re not talking about an assembly-line cafeteria. No, instead picture the best mall food court ever – and then make the food much better. It’s all about choices here: sushi bar, stone-fired pizza, cooked-to-order pasta and wok dishes, open-fire mesquite grill, a spread of fruit and salads, veggie and vegan choices, and bakery-quality desserts. And the food here doesn’t have that institutional, banquet-quantity look and taste; it’s straight-up good. I wouldn’t eat this well if I had a personal chef.
And try this:
You can even send in your favorite recipes from home, right through the Dining Services website – and soon you might be noshing on Gramma’s Cheesy Mac with all your pals.
Satisfied that the residence halls were a cut above, I headed out onto campus to wander around and talk to some students. Over at the Argyros Forum – chill central – I found some spots that looked very new, so I asked around and found out that the school let students vote on what they wanted for food choices. So now there’s a Jamba Juice and an Einstein Bros. Bagels back-to-back, and World of Wings right there for wings or café food, sit-down or takeout. The student body has spoken!
But the real difference-maker when it comes to on-campus food is timing: Can you get what you want, when you crave it? A school’s got to work around the way students live, and that doesn’t fall under normal dining hours.
Yes, Chapman’s got that covered. From 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., you can find something you’ll like. And one of the things I appreciated about this campus is that it’s compact – if nothing but a cinnamon roll is going to satisfy your need, you don’t have to walk miles to get it.
Besides the Forum, the broadest selection is found in Beckman Hall. There you’ve got Subversions for custom-built sandwiches, Jazzman’s for seriously good coffee plus food too, and Simply to Go for grab-and-be-going. Over at the Leatherby Libraries you can hit the Rotunda Café for a variety of healthy and organic snacks and fresh fruit that rotate based on the growing season!
For lunch, the options expand, with the Attallah Piazza Grill Cart serving up Nathan’s hot dogs, Chicago beef sandwiches, sausages, burgers, street tacos … an authentic selection of classic cart food, hot off the grill. Top it off with a genuine gelato or another dessert from Gelateria di Piazza, right next to it.
And what about late-night – maybe the most critical feeding period in student life? Well, the Rotunda Café in the Leatherby is there for you until 2 a.m., or you can head over to Doy’s Place at Henley Underground at Henley Hall for snacks and drinks until 1 a.m.
The last real test of campus cuisine isn’t actually on campus – it’s what you can get to easily from campus. No matter how good the cooking is at school, you’ll want to head out from time to time. So the question always comes down to this: Is the campus a lonesome oasis surrounded by food wasteland?
Well, remember what I said about Chapman being a compact place? That extends outward. Located right in Old Town Orange, the school is walking distance from enough food and beverage choices to keep you busy for months trying them out. Just within 15 minutes of walking you’ll find pizza, barbecue, Japanese, Mexican, Korean and Italian, to name only a few. And yes, fellow caffeine-heads— the Chapman Coffee House is located just a block from the halls, and there are two Starbucks located just two short blocks from campus. Oh, and google “Bruxie.” Who knew waffles could be so delicious?
Add it all up, and you see why this is one of the top college food scenes I’ve come across. With plenty of fresh choices in the residence halls and across campus, nearly around-the-clock options, and a vibrant restaurant scene nearby, Chapman has something good for everyone. The learning is good here, but the living may be even better.